Social media in the workplace

24 March 2015

In his second opinion piece, Amethyst's Kevin Sloan considers the risks of social media to your business 

All but the most techno-phobic of your employees will have one, if not several, of the social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) which they use for private purposes. Even in their own time, they may be using these sites this to network with work and professional colleagues, or perhaps even have conversations that are directly work related.

Companies are also being encouraged, via siren-sounds in the industry, to engage ‘Generation X’ and encourage the use of these tools within the work environment; indeed companies are no longer expected to have just a website, but also presence on these same social sites.

Just as for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the blurring of the boundary of personal use brings its own risks that need to be both evaluated and controlled.

This can be tacitly; if you give your employees the facilities to access the internet and social media for both work and personal purposes, most will probably use this and mix the two. It can also be ‘by design’ where companies engage both employees and the social networks themselves and actively encourage social networks to be used for work purposes.

So what are some generic risks?

  1. There may be ‘careless talk’ by staff on social network sites – important company secrets could leak into the wild. Staff could unwittingly be in contact with competitors, hackers and criminals all masquerading as ‘friends’, or your company’s reputation can easily be ‘dissed’ by casual remarks

  2. Information on social sites is in the public domain: once out there is it is almost impossible to retract

  3. It can be addictive and can divert staff from their ‘proper job’.

And just as per BYOD, the true solution is to adopt local risk management and control approaches that factor in the unique requirements of your business.

Some controls you need to consider will fall into these categories:

  1. Education and Awareness – it’s vital to ensure that staff are aware of the risks of use of social media sites, especially in regard of supporting work activities. They need a simple “think before you click” guide that provides a checklist to ensure they are not divulging company secrets to the net, are appropriately sceptical of unseen online ‘friends’, that they do not put anything out there that they (or the company) would subsequently regret, and that they carefully manage the online privacy settings of each service they are on

  2. Fair Use – if your organisation has a deliberate permissive policy and its own social presence, then a clear and fair policy exists as to how it will support work purposes and any limits on private and personal use during ‘work time’

  3. Police Your Online Reputation – consider using online tools or service providers that can scan and manage your company’s online reputation, in the same way as scouring for press cuttings, remembering that online can be more dynamic and some issues can unexpectedly ‘go viral’. Ensure there are proper marketing and publishing controls for your own direct online presences on social sites

  4. Engagement and Reporting – engage with staff using those same social tools (and more traditional contact methods). Encourage them to report back on good/bad online publicity concerning your business.

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